Republican incumbent Doug Stokes faces Democratic challenger Scott Katz in the race for Fourth Ward seat on the Westfield Town Council. A candidates' forum is slated for Monday, Oct. 21, at the Municipal Building, 425 East Broad St. Voters go to the polls Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019.
Name: Scott Katz
Time in Westfield: 17 years
Party affiliation: Democrat
What are your qualifications for office? I studied Economics at Tulane, operated a successful family-business for two decades and currently manage sales accounts for top small-businesses in New Jersey. I intimately understand the day-to-day pressures our business-owners face, the modern expectations of consumers and the imperative of foresight to see what’s next.
Westfield operated without a holistic town plan, which left us unprepared for the challenges that came with a shifting economy. For years, we were reactive with a piece-meal approach that left the Downtown vulnerable, especially our Southside businesses
Now, we’re seeing the results of a strong economic development plan that will need new energy to help see it through. My experience implementing strategies that engage small-businesses in driving sustainable growth, consumer satisfaction and innovation to stay ahead, are some of the skills I’ll bring as your Ward 4 Councilman.
What would your top priorities be if elected to the Town Council? First, road paving is finally prioritized. After too many years of disrepair, 20+ miles of roads were repaved in the last year alone. I look forward to supporting a need-based, technology-driven approach to road repair.
Second, parks (especially Tamaques) make our community special. There’s so much potential in our public spaces, and so much we need to protect. Like so many residents, I’ve spent hours on our fields and on those in neighboring towns as a coach and cheering dad — the difference in conditions is stark. Because of this, Mayor Brindle initiated Westfield’s first holistic Strategic Parks Plan, currently underway. I’ll work to make sure our natural spaces are preserved, and that we finally deliver modern recreation facilities, athletic fields, bicycle and walking trails, and recreation programs to all residents. Tamaques Park will be central to this plan.
Finally, peak one-seat rides to NYC are a major, unrealized economic development opportunity for our Downtown, Southside businesses, home values, and overall quality of life. I’m not sure why Town leaders were silent or satisfied with off-peak direct service for so long. I’m not, and I won’t stop fighting until residents have peak one-seat rides and better service.
What do think the town should be doing to be fiscally responsible? Smart, conservative fiscal stewardship, while wisely investing in our municipal assets, are essential features of fiscal responsibility. Having achieved our first 0% municipal tax increase; maintained a $9.5 million surplus and AAA bond rating; and updated the Town’s cash management program which doubled our interest earned for 2018. We’re finally seeing the returns residents should expect from Town leadership. But with so much more to do in Westfield to ensure viable long-term success, I will propose pro-growth strategies that consider today’s evolving business and retail climate.
How would you work to benefit the business climate in Westfield? I work with independent retail businesses every day. Whether it’s a new business owner, or an existing merchant who’s expanding or experiencing stagnant growth, I’m with them from start to finish. In helping set, realize and exceed their goals, they can better serve the communities they reside in. I’ll use this experience to attract new businesses to town and identify opportunities for established businesses to stay relevant.
Is there anything else you would like the readers to know? People often ask me what’s the best part about Westfield, and the answer is easy — our neighbors. It’s why my wife Caroline and I feel so fortunate to live and raise our family here.
Name: Doug Stokes
Time in Westfield? I have lived in Westfield since 2002 with my wife, Josephine, and my four children: Joseph, Michael, Julia and Kevin.
Party affiliation: Republican
What are your qualifications for office? I am seeking re-election as a 4th Ward Councilperson. I have served the town with pride and integrity since being elected. I have served as vice chair on several committees and have been a member of the Finance, Department of Public Works and Public Safety Committees. I have also served as council liaison for the Historical Preservation Committee and Westfield Memorial Library. I also served the town as President of the Westfield Memorial Library Board of Trustees for numerous years.
What would your top priorities be if elected to the Town Council? Quality of life for all residents including: Continuing to keep utilities in check from destroying our neighborhoods with high power lines and cell towers by continuing to fight hard for alternative/out of the box solutions.
- Expanding our parks and creating (long overdue) playing fields for residents of all ages.
- Improving the infrastructure of our streets by promoting more street paving and approving the purchases of equipment to support our own DPW with making needed pothole, resurfacing and other repairs. More streets have been paved each year since being elected!
- Continuing to find solutions with colleagues in a bipartisan manner to promote downtown businesses, fill vacancies, expand parking and improve commuter options, including the one seat ride, which we are fighting for.
- Improve crosswalks, lighting and public awareness for pedestrian safety. Safety for our children, families and visitors is imperative for our neighborhoods and a vibrant downtown.
What do think the town should be doing to be fiscally responsible? As a member of the Finance Committee for the last two years and passing a 0.0% tax increase for the 2019 municipal tax rate shows that we are keeping a healthy surplus at $9.5 million, yet investing in our town, while keeping the impact on residents low. Continuing to monitor the balance of surplus, tax rates, capital improvements and return on investments is essential to fiscal responsibility. Meeting regularly with Town officials to review the above, exploring other options (i.e. investments, grant opportunities and conversations with the county tax office), as well as communicating with and getting residents’ feedback is critical for sustained fiscal responsibility.
How would you work to benefit the business climate in Westfield?
I would work with my council colleagues and the constituents of the town including residents (those of Westfield past and those of Westfield today) business owners, landlords, the DWC and town personnel to find solutions. Improving our business climate is not finding the one person with the magical answer, but the collective of our community in working together. That includes re-visiting past task-forces recommendations, current surveys, visits to other communities and input from the constituents. Every voice is valuable in the Westfield community, especially when it comes to improving the business climate.
Is there anything else you would like the readers to know?
I believe in integrity and honesty. I will continue to do the research, get the facts, ask the uncomfortable questions to make informed decisions ... not popular ones! I will continue to take pride in Westfield, think local and represent not just the 4th Ward but all of Westfield!